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Car Attributes That Should Not Be Ignored When Sourcing For The Perfect Road Trip Companion

These 5 qualities could make or break your road trip!
Gerald Yuen
Gerald Yuen
27 Oct 2022

Preparing for your much anticipated road trip has never been more exciting, given that we are just getting back into the groove of travelling after two plus years of hiatus. Drivers, understandably so, might even require some simple orientation to undertake longer haul drives.

If you are at a stage where decision-making includes which car to purchase before embarking on extended drives, these attributes can serve as a checklist. Characteristics of road trips differ from short start-stop drives in the city. Qualities that are not too obvious while navigating in the CBD might be amplified over hours of non-stop driving.

Rear boot with a low loading entry

The lower portion of a car’s boot opening should not be too high, or jut out too much. Sure, some SUVs claim to swallow plenty of luggages at one go, but one should not also ignore the process of carrying bulky items up and down the rear trunk. Some crossovers over-prioritise design over functionality, which can hinder swift load-lugging progress. Wagons might be a good option, as most rear trunks boast a shallow loading ingress with deep storage. One slight sprain could alter the mood of this much anticipated trip. Your spine will thank you post-holiday.

Extra large fuel tank

We generally agree that cars with larger fuel tanks likely mean that they consume more fuel, but there are exceptions - some vehicles are specced with a larger tank as they are engineered to swallow big miles, uninterrupted. Diesel-fuelled vehicles might dominate this requirement. Apart from pickup trucks that are increasingly used for family adventures in markets like Malaysia and Thailand, German haulers excel in this aspect too. A previous-gen Volkswagen Touareg diesel specced for the Singapore market came fitted with a 100-litre fuel tank, 15 litres more than its V6 petrol siblings.. Even the current-gen Touareg comes with a smaller 75-litre tank.

BMW’s 116d and 520d can also do the job, with a decent-sized 52-litre / 66-litre tank that covers well over 1,000km and 1,200km per tank respectively. Product managers for urban markets like Singapore might scrape this idea for the sake of weight savings and economy, but dig deeper into each vehicle’s specifications and you might be able to identify one secretly capable of sustained long distance commutes. Range anxiety was never in the conversation…

Powerful air conditioning

This might sound like a given, but in our region, a few seconds of heat can feel like a lifetime in the sauna. Most tourist attractions promote the activity itself, but not the parking area that is likely not sheltered unless you’re shopping mall hopping. During your test drive, request to start the car on your own, pump up the air conditioning and monitor how long it takes for temperatures to dip.

Rather than fixating on air conditioner readouts, fully rely on yourself (there’s no better sensor than your skin!) to check if you can live with this intensity. This could very well be the single most important, but often overlooked attribute for any road trip car. On a side note, the size of the car’s cabin matters too. If you’re driving a SUV or wagon, retracting the cargo cover might help cool down the cabin a slight bit faster.

Prioritise mid-range torque over other power bands

Unlike in the city where low-end torque is crucial, B-roads and highways encourage you to stay within the middle tiers of the power band. A car that has accessible torque for most occasions will make your drive that much more engaging. Sure, a beefy horsepower output affords a higher top speed, but aiming for such an attempt can be catastrophic in reality. Usable mid range performance is ideal for B-road blasts and occasional post-tollbooth sprints.

Car with accurate steering

You need not be a petrolhead to enjoy a car engineered with a good, direct steering. A scenario where the requirement for an accurate steering is amplified includes sweeping corners on a wet, muddy back road, where you need to get a good sense of the car’s grip level. Tyres with lower profiles and stiffer sidewalls help shape a steering with less free play too, although this could have an impact on ride comfort. Exclude less attainable / more exotic examples and our benchmark for exemplary steering feel has always been the family-oriented E90 BMW 3 Series, but its successors also supply a lighter, but sufficiently precise steering that makes every journey ever so rewarding.

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